UFC 302: Islam Makhachev Says It’s His Dream to Fight in MSG, Wants New Challenge

Newark, NJ — After finishing Dustin Poirier by submission in the fifth round of Saturday’s UFC 302 main event, Islam Makhachev believes he salvaged a card that didn’t quite live up to expectations.

Makhachev (26-1), who earned both Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night after winning via D’arce choke, told media outlets including Cageside Press following the event that “I think I saved this card today, because all these fights are boring, all the arena almost sleep. We show with Dustin, a great performance.”

“Dana gave me two bonuses. Before I remember when I have first contract, I’m happy when I have a bonus. Now, it’s okay,” Makhachev added with a laugh.

The lightweight champ, now on a 14-fight win streak, did not come away from the bout unscathed. Poirier turned up the heat in the fourth and early part of the fifth round, stuffing takedowns, working the body, and landing a few decent shots upstairs.

“I think it’s my first cut. It’s okay,” Makhachev said of the damage. “This is MMA, not soccer, not basketball. This is MMA, we fight, we try to crush each other, beat each other. Dustin today gave me a hard time.”

Up next, Islam Makhachev is looking to return for a big fight in New York City— a dream fight, he revealed. “Honestly it’s my dream to fight in Madison Square Garden. Now I think the U.S. fans like me, because we show a good fight tonight.  If they give me a chance to come back in Madison Square Garden, this is my dream, fighting in this arena.”

Asked about the possibility of setting a record for lightweight title fights, Makhachev stated that “I don’t follow, beat some record or something like this. If you want a great legacy, you have to get a second belt. That’s my opinion.”

That’s what Makhachev is looking for next: a second title, a shot at welterweight gold. Dana White told reporters earlier in the night that while open to it, Arman Tsarukyan was the opponent the UFC had in mind for their lightweight champ next.

“I’m ready, man. Dana has my number, just call me and [give me] some new challenge,” Makhachev said in response to that pairing. Asked whether he was impressed with Tsarukyan’s run since their first meeting in 2019, which saw Makhachev claim a decision win, he said only that it doesn’t make sense to have a rematch. “I need some new challenge. But if Dana wants, no problem.”

Watch the full UFC 302 post-fight press conference with Islam Makhachev above.